Auspicious and inauspicious!

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(Part I)

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Month of December is both auspicious and inauspicious. In this month we have had many developments of far-reaching consequences. Generally speaking, it is very auspicious for humanity. It was on Christmas Day Holy Jesus Christ was born as a messenger of God to deliver the world of all its evils. On this day until than a remote fishing village carved a niche in hall of everlasting fame by giving birth to the founder of Pakistan and Muslim nationhood—Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. While the entire humankind has reasons to joyously celebrate the month, for Pakistanis there could not be a more happier occasion than this to give birth to its founder– who single-handedly created a separate country for the Muslims in the sub-continent against all opposition.

That being that, December’s glory has been eclipsed by some of the darkest days in our history too. First of course was December 16, 1971 military junta under the command of perpetually drunk dictator Genera Yahya Khan and his generals including General ‘Tiger’ Niazi, (an uncle of current Prime Minister) surrendered half of the country to the Indian Army General—Jagit Singh Arora—without putting up even a decent fight.  

It was abject denial to submit to the democratic electoral verdict of the majority, General Yahya and ‘Tiger’ Niazi –along with his 90,000 officers and soldiers surrendered in Dhaka before the Indian army bringing on record one of the most humiliating chapters of our history that would continue to hang as an albatross around the necks of Pakistani generals. When the ‘Tiger’ from Mianwali affixed his signatures on the surrender document he had not only signed the death warrant of Quaid’s Pakistan but had also signalled the oncoming of more tragic events that were not only to drown the dreams of the founding fathers into a quagmire of uncertainty, but also to lead us onto a path that had made George Santayana observe that those who do not learn from the past mistakes are condemned by history to repeat them.

I would agree with the observation of writer Hassan Naqvi in a column recently that it was soon after the death of MAJ that coterie of Pakistani generals helped by the superior bureaucracy took over the reins of the government replacing Pakistan’s vintage politicians. One had hoped that finally a truncated Pakistan would turn around under the dynamic leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who pledged to the nation to pick up the pieces of a battered country, to give its people a sense of direction, hope in their future and confidence in a democratic Pakistan as envisioned by MAJ.

SIMLA: President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signing the historic Simla Agreement. Six months after Bangladesh was established, the Simla Agreement was signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan on 2nd July 1972.

Bhutto Sahib’s major and astounding achievements included: (1) Simla Agreement when he negotiated an honourable peace with India on equal terms without prejudice to Pakistan’s traditional position on Kashmir i.e., UN Resolutions—later abdicated by dictator General Pervez Musharraf. (2) He recovered 5000 square miles of the West Pakistani territory on the Simla conference table lost in the battlefield by the generals and subsequently got released from the Indian Prisoner-of-War camps 93,000 prisoners. His was internationally recognised as a superb feat of statesmanship and diplomacy. (3) He gave the country its first practicable, consensus based unanimously passed constitution settling the tricky issue of the quantum of provincial autonomy—that has proved to this day to be a more powerful binding force among the provinces then religion. How long this ‘73 Constitution will sustain its capacity to keep the country together is far too difficult to forecast since it is being constantly under attack of the Khaki establishment to convert Pakistan into a presidential system.

Pakistan’s sojourn onto the course that promised them a democratic and prosperous future was cut short by Army chief General Ziaul Haq’s coup on July 5, 1977. Then onward there has been nothing but a concerted effort to malign the civilian leadership, reverse Bhutto’s achievements and convert Pakistan into a garrison state. Bhutto’s execution on the basis of a split judgement described internationally as judicial murder—has sowed seeds of permanent discord in Pakistan’s polity.

Most ominous event after the hanging of Bhutto Sahib was the dastardly murder of his “dearest” daughter Benazir Bhutto on December 27th 2007 through a conspiracy by General Musharraf.  What had made the whole December scenario capricious was the Dual Office Bill into an act of Parliament illicitly anointing Musharraf to keep two offices.  

Pakistan’s twice elected and Muslim world’s first ever women Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto set an example in personal sacrifices covering a period of 35 years until she was assassinated in December 2007. Her death no doubt was marked by return of democracy, it was put on right course by former President Zardari when he acting as rightful heir to Bibi held successful elections and transferred power to be followed by yet another (though engineered) polls by the Khaki establishment to bring in a puppet prime minister. The big question now is where do we go from here? Since 1988 there have been dismissals of three elected prime ministers. One of them was handpicked and installed in the office through party-less elections while the two others—elected for two five-year terms each—were sent home much before the completion of their tenures on charges of alleged corruption.

Currently Pakistan is being managed through a Praetorian concept that has made Parliament, prime minister and the apex judiciary no better than rubber stamps with Khaki establishment pulling the strings from behind the scene. Quaid’s categorical assertion was that religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state, by now Pakistan has been doled out to the Mullas in a big way to carry out sectarian killings. NAB and accountability are the processes described by international observers as a farce to provide a formidable lever to the government to gain political strength. (To be continued in next edition.)

(The author is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to the UK, a long-time adviser to the martyred Prime Minister of Pakistan Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and a veteran journalist.)